- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill redefining adequate K-12 school funding so the state can spend hundreds of millions of dollars less but still meet the target for fully funding schools.

The House voted 116-38 Tuesday to send the bill to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who has said he opposes the move and appears apt to veto it.

The measure would limit the growth of what’s called the state adequacy target, which lawmakers use when setting goals for how much money schools should receive. The bill would not limit spending but would mean that target couldn’t increase by more than 5 percent every two years.

The move comes after the Legislature has failed to meet funding goals for schools for years.

The formula used to determine how much money lawmakers should aim to spend on basic aid for K-12 schools included a 5 percent cap when legislators created it in 2005. Lawmakers dropped the cap in 2009, hoping to receive more money from gambling that never came.

Now, even with a proposed $70 million increase in spending on basic aid, lawmakers next year would fall more than $400 million short of their own targets to fund schools.

“The ability to fund this formula as it is will be very difficult,” said Ron Lankford, deputy commissioner at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is not taking a stance on the bill.

Under Nixa Republican Sen. Jay Wasson’s bill, legislators would only be about $54 million short based on the most current spending proposal for next fiscal year.

Rep. David Wood, a Versailles Republican and sponsor of a similar measure, said lawmakers have less motivation to meet funding goals because the target would keep ballooning larger. That’s because spending more money on schools bumps up the state spending target for future years.

“If you have a carrot on a stick to lead the horse, and this stick gets so far away from the horse, it doesn’t have an incentive because it can’t see the carrot,” Wood said. “If we keep that carrot close and just move it out a little bit at a time that horse keeps moving.”

Wasson’s measure passed the Senate unanimously, but met Democratic pushback in the House.

“We’re just lowering the target for educating our kids and putting less money into the foundation formula,” Kansas City Democrat Rep. Judy Morgan said.

Nixon criticized the bill last week, saying it would shift costs of education to local taxpayers. He also said the proposed change is politically motivated.

“There are members of the Legislature that want to lower the fully-funded number so that they can go back to their districts and say they delivered for education when they haven’t,” Nixon said during a Friday visit to a Columbia school.

He added that lawmakers also “want to be in a situation where once they hit that much lower number, they can give tax breaks away without the penalty, the political penalty of not supporting local schools.”

Lawmakers passed the bill in both chambers with more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. If legislators stick to their original votes, it appears likely the measure could pass into law.


Associated Press writers Adam Aton and David A. Lieb contributed to this report.


Missouri school funding bill is SB 586.


Senate: https://www.senate.mo.gov


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